Inc. Magazine forgot one important element in their virtual case study

Our response to the Inc. case-study on the question: ‘to be virtual or not to be virtual?’ includes our disappointment that they left their readers without any input from companies such as ours, the ones who provide the hybrid solution to support the virtual office worker.

Let us explain what we do: we run a shared office centre that also provides virtual office services for home-based businesses. It offers workers the convenience and comfort of working from home, plus the professional office support when needed such as: telephone answering, hot desks, boardroom meeting space by the hour or day, a la carte administrative services and mail handling.  To anyone who can read between the lines, the above statement shows that the best of both worlds does exist when it comes to deciding whether or not to go virtual.

Now let us explain the Inc. Magazine story: they went “virtual” in their home offices for a month, and named quite a few benefits of doing so, namely all the ways they could save money. But their complaints included the two most obvious: a) other companies don’t take virtual companies seriously and b) they missed real-life interaction with other humans.

Their conclusion? They went back to their $500,000 a year conventional office space and continued to pay $770 a year for employee phone lines and $300 a month in out-of-pocket commuting expenses.  They also went back to their “crappy enterprise software” and internal servers (or so we have to assume since they never mentioned the benefits of the experiments they chose to keep).

But things didn’t have to turn out that depressing – especially for the handful of employees who wanted to keep working from home, the ones who became more productive outside the traditional office environment.

Imagine, the magazine’s employees could have used an hourly office at various locations when they needed to do so, and stayed at home on days they needed to get things done without distractions.

They could have held weekly boardroom brainstorming sessions in a central location. They could have had a live receptionist answering their phones in their company name so that when “outsiders” called, they would never know they were being transferred to a private number.  Of course, they wouldn’t need to hire a full-time receptionist.  That person would be part of a virtual answering service using advanced telephone software allowing them to take calls for several companies at a time – all in a personalized fashion. And no, the receptionist – at least not here at our company – ever says “we’re just an answering service” (to address a concern mentioned in the article).

Their business cards would have shown a real business address and all mail would go to that address (not to a P.O. Box or someone’s house).  Then the virtual receptionist would either open the mail and scan and email it, or have a courier deliver the mail to them.

Then, to make things even more attractive, let’s say they start doing business in other cities across the country, or even around the world.  The shared virtual office would give the business an affordable way to expand. They could easily set up virtual ‘locations’ in a way that would enable them to get a foot in the door in various geographic markets. Agents and reps in those cities could use a shared office space as a day office as needed. The phone line would have an area code matching the city, and all the “outsiders” (gotta love that expression, thanks Inc.) would be more receptive to respond to a local company.

All that money saved on conventional office space leasing could be used to fly employees out to the brainstorming sessions with the rest of the team. Alternatively, the employees could attend the brainstorming meetings by videoconferencing available through the virtual office/business centre.

In the background of the Inc. article, all the consumer technologies the workers came to adore, such as Skype and Dropbox would stay intact, and the company’s efficiency would stay high while also allowing collaboration between employees.

If there was ever a break-in or a fire, the phone lines would remain operational because they would be using multiple technologies at multiple locations. Servers could be remotely located in a secure data centre that would withstand even natural disasters.  Oh, and their snail mail wouldn’t get burned to a crisp or stolen either.

Sounds too good to be true? Well it’s not.  It’s all real, and like our motto here at Central Park Business Centre, “We make it possible.”  We have a long history of servicing such businesses and providing them the best of both worlds.  No, this is not a new phenomenon – it’s a model that has been around for 4 decades. Several species of ‘our kind’ are offering it all over the world.  It’s too bad a case study as extensive and well-lived as Inc. Magazine’s go-home project didn’t discover it.